Thursday, July 29, 2010

Book Review: Sham Rock, A Mystery Set at the University of Notre Dame

My first book read specifically for the Fifty States mystery challenge. I read Sham Rock by Ralph McInerny. Only once I’d finished the book did I realize that he was the creator of Father Dowling and that he’d died, evidently before this book was published, which made me sad, although he was 80 and lived my dream (you know, actually finishing the books I have great ideas for).

As for the book, I picked it up because – little known fact here (if you know me, however, this is sarcasm) – I am a crazy Notre Dame football fan. I spend my Saturdays in the fall glued to the television or the radio when life permits (because although I love college football, I have four kids with activities and a very close-knit family that I visit frequently). Also, I can’t wait to try out my XM radio this season. I’m in love with it in the off-season, so I might just drive around one Saturday to see how awesome it is to be able to listen to so many games on the radio.

The mystery itself was intriguing (seriously – I read this book in one night). The main story involves three former students, one who is a financial advisor who’s hit hard times and has angry clients, one who is a Trappist monk and one who disappeared when they were in college. The monk sends a journal to the ND archives that seems to imply that the financial guy killed the one who went missing. This sparks investigations and secrets are unveiled. Naturally.

I was surprised (not knowing before I began reading who the author was other than a random name) at the heavy Catholicism in the book. It wasn’t just a novel set at Notre Dame. It was steeped in the Catholic culture. The characters were mainly religious. This wasn’t a bad thing (I was raised Catholic and would probably attend a Catholic church if our practically Bible Belt rural area had one closer than an hour away), it wasn’t over the top or anything. It was just not what I was expecting.

I would recommend it to Catholics, though not necessarily Notre Dame fans. My brother might not enjoy it, but I bet my grandmother would.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Reading Challenge…

I’ve been looking for some new books to read. I generally read historic fiction (think The Other Boleyn Girl) but it’s summer, my brain is tired. Besides which, I tend to not have long evenings to read. During the school year the kids go to bed at 8 (which means they’re actually in bed around 8:15) and I stay up until 10-10:30. That’s two hours of solid reading time. I can knock out a lightweight book in one night, but more to the point, I can read a heavier, chock-full-of-facts historic novel in just a few nights.

I normally default to historic romance novels for fluff reading, but I’m bored and my standards are too high – meaning I’ve read most of the really quality ones and won’t finish the ones that aren’t high quality. Plus, my library doesn’t order any new romance novels so that leaves me buying them. At $6+ a pop times one-half per night, I’d be way over my budget for the summer.

I picked up a mystery last time I was at the library and decided that was the perfect summer reading genre (for this summer, this week, at least). Then I found a challenge on GoodReads that involves reading a cozy mystery from each state and DC. I have a few books on the way already thanks to Paperbackswap, which is a very valuable resource to a fast reader like me whose local library doesn’t stock my favorite books.

I’m debating if I should allow myself to count everything I’ve read this summer or not. Which would really only gain me one state. I think I’ll go ahead and count it. So right now, I’m at 1/51. Go me!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Baking bites…

I love baking. I love to eat baked goods. Seems like a perfect combination, right? Well, my waist (because every extra ounce gained goes to my waist first and every ounce lost comes off my waist last) doesn’t really appreciate this. Between my weight loss goals and my husband’s pre-diabetic condition, the baked goods have been taking a back burner. But I still read baking blogs and boy, am I tempted.

Here’s what’s on my to-be-baked list:

Snickerdoodle Blondies

Red Velvet Cake (my favorite)

Brownie Mosaic Cheesecake (possibly my birthday cake this year)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies

So my game plan now is to find events to bake these things and take them to so that we won’t eat them all. I don’t really  have my usual round of cook-outs, but there’s at least one potluck coming up that’s getting something from this list.

Tomorrow I’m making a Black Forest Trifle. That’s what Tom has requested for his birthday and even though no one else will eat it, that’s what I’m making him. Actually, he wants a Black Forest Cake, but I told him this would be lighter and he agreed that was a better plan.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Christy’s Kit of the Week

I haven’t actually been scrapping that much this summer, but I’ve been shopping for digiscrap supplies (breaking my typical self-imposed crafting rule of only buying new supplies if I’m actively involved in the craft).

I am always on the lookout for kits using primary colors with simple graphic elements. Simple ribbons, flowers, geometric shapes are what I tend to use if I use elements at all (I’m a true simple scrapper). These kits are hard to come by. But I’ve found several this month that I had no current use for, but had to have for my stash. I love the July color play at Elemental Scraps and the free Blog Train Blog kit, Picnic at the Park.

This week’s favorite is At the Dropoff by Bella Gypsy available at Scrap Matters.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Recipe Review: Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake

I asked my now 5 year old what kind of cake she wanted for her birthday. Her answer? An Olivia cake made of ice cream cake, shaped like a pig and wearing a yellow dress. Um, okay. How about what color cake do you want? And then what color frosting? And should it be cake or cupcakes? With that very specific guidance, I ended up baking chocolate cupcakes with pink frosting.


I've been testing out cake recipes to find ones that will become my real stand-bys. I'm not there yet. This chocolate cake would have been fine for regular cake, but it was too runny to make cupcakes without my kitchen looking like a chocolate murder scene. It was a lovely texture and taste, however, so it will definitely be attempted again. Plus, no creaming of butter and alternating flour and milk step, which meant super easy.

Miss S's family birthday party is tomorrow, Tom's birthday is Monday and mine is Friday, so the recipe testing will continue this week. My cake might be less a traditional cake and more cheesecake-y, but I haven't decided yet. It will not be shaped like a pig, I promise you that.
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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Garden 2010: Week…crap, I’ve lost count…

I don’t know. Eight, maybe? Whatever it is, we’re harvesting stuff almost every day. Mainly just squash and cucumbers, but still, it’s fun to pick food from my backyard (sort of – it’s not really in my backyard, more like my sideyard, but even then I have to walk past a field of corn to get to it).

Here’s the view of the whole thing this week:


It’s gotten a little wild and unruly, but hey, that’s me. I like organized chaos.

IMG_4033A Jack-Be-Little pumpkin. Tom thought it was supposed to be a full sized pumpkin and wondered what the hell was wrong with it. If I held my hand up, that would still be smaller than my palm. When I explained that it was an ornamental tiny pumpkin, he was much relieved.


This is a tromboncino squash, which we’re growing for two reasons. One – it is supposedly resistant to the bugs that killed my pumpkins last year (and could easily kill my squash this year). And two – Tom is a musician and his main instrument is the trombone. How could we not grow it?